Every now and then, I happen upon food in a restaurant so absolutely wonderful I have to either figure out how to recreate the recipe in my own kitchen or be forced to visit the restaurant again, requiring yet another meal out.
Eating out demands a whole social system I’m usually just too exhausted to deal with. Other diners, the host person and waitstaff all require my interaction. Most of them – well intentioned, I’m sure – want to chat using that hideous manifestation of extroversion connection: Small Talk.
Server: How are you today? (Translation: Are you going to be low-maintenance, or…gluten free?)
Me: Fine. (Translation: Please don’t tell me your name…)
Server: My name is Ashley/Bradley/Brooke/Chandler and I’ll be your server. (Translation: You’re going to complain about the air conditioner hitting you in that seat. I know it.)
Me: Hi. (Translation: Oh my God! Now I have to remember his/her name. I’ve already forgotten it! What ever happened to people named John and Mary? What do kids with weird names do when they want pre-printed stickers to put on their notebooks and they can’t find a sticker with the name “Tracey” spelled “T-R-A-Y-S-E-E?” They would have to special order…)
Server: Ma’me? Ma’me? (Translation: Are you having a stroke? You didn’t hear me ask what you wanted to drink and you’re tipping the chair over and dropping the cutlery all over the place.)
However, Dirtman requires I go to restaurants on occasion and going with him doesn’t make matters any better. Dirtman doesn’t go to restaurants so much to eat, as to socialize. (Yeah, I know – how have we stayed married 30 years?)
First Dirtman scopes out the room, looking for someone he knows… or someone he might know… or someone wearing a Virginia Tech t-shirt… or someone wearing anything. He chooses his victim, wolfs down his food, excuses himself to go to the bathroom, never to be heard from again.
This leaves me at the table alone and at the mercy of a server who, now feels sorry for me and wants to ramp up the conversation.
Server: Are you enjoying your meal? (Translation: Jeese, even her husband doesn’t want to eat with her.)
Me: … (Translation: My mouth is full of food. Is it more rude to answer with a mouthful or try to swallow first and risk that, since this is small talk, she/he doesn’t really care and will move on before I get a chance to answer, in which case she/he’ll think I’m rude…)
Server: I’ll just take some of these dishes away. (Translation: Maybe I should go get her husband who is sitting at that table chatting with that group of bewildered Buddhist monks.)
I carry my Kindle with me always for just such occasions. I act like I’m reading something requiring full concentration. (Translation: I am deep and too focused on my reading to discuss whether it’s hot enough for me.)
During one of these meals I was introduced to a magical manifestation: Cauliflower Rice; specifically, cauliflower rice from Zoe’s Kitchen. Zoe’s is fast food (ish), without the health risk – and they make an incredible hibiscus green iced tea. And cauliflower rice answers the prayers of a 60-year-old woman who has finally admitted her carb-loaded days have passed (begrudgingly -- I still sneak in a pasta day. I'm not a psychopath).
Zoe’s Cauliflower Rice, infused with wonderful fresh flavors, forced me to spend half the time I should have been focused on the Charlottesville Opera’s performance of Oklahoma! instead trying to figure the interesting seasoning mixture that made the dish so captivating.
My first attempt contains the obvious flavors of lemon and dill and is very good. But it lacks the one very important spice that gives Zoe’s version its unique flavor. Cardamom was acceptable, but I have to own up to a miss.
You know what this means. It means another visit to Zoe’s Kitchen. Otherwise I’ll never be able to eat Cauliflower Rice without pants.*
*For those that know me – sorry for that visual flashing in your brain.